Volume 80, Number 33 | January 13 - 19, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Bettmann Corbis

The man with the plan: Robert Moses eyes Lower Manhattan.

Knickerbocker’s bio of Moses gets the job done
Chamber Orchestra counting on your support

BY HELAINA N. HOVITZ

It’s finally time for Robert Moses to face the music.

This Saturday, conductor, composer and South Street Seaport resident Gary Fagin will be presenting six excerpts from his musical “Robert Moses Astride New York” at the World Financial Center Winter Garden. He was commissioned by the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts to present 20 minutes of the larger piece — which is still a work in progress.

Fagin, along with his Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra, will perform musical numbers highlighting three different but equally pivotal occasions in the life of the man dubbed by Robert. A. Caro as “The Power Broker.”

Selections will include “The Man Who Gets Things Done” (in which Moses directs a whirlwind of construction projects that begin to redefine the city) and “Aria: My City” (where Moses describes his feelings of betrayal and infallibility). Rinde Eckert is the man who portrays Moses — the controversial visionary who helmed many of our city’s now-iconic parks, highways and bridges.

While the piece is specific to New York, the story of a man with a tremendous vision is universal. But it’s no easy feat to sing his praises. Those who’ve read Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel know that Moses was a man who favored highways over public transportation, vehicles over people — and displaced hundreds of thousands of New York City residents in order to build expressways in traditional neighborhoods.

“Moses was a man of tremendous ego, will and determination. That’s the kind of character that will be portrayed,” Fagin says. “Some people disagree with what he did and how he did it, but I’ve tried to let him speak for himself, in a musical way.”

Fagin is musical director of the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra. Currently in its third season of performing exclusively Downtown, they’re counting on locals to come show their support. When Fagin assembled the orchestra back in 2008, his objective was to hire the best musicians possible, and pay them “respectfully, to reflect their worth.” This meant that each performance, with rehearsals, would be costly. The economic downturn has affected the level of support for all non-profits — especially a newly established professional chamber orchestra. But since the KCO is based and performs exclusively in Lower Manhattan, their funding is dependent almost entirely on Downtown residents and institutions.

“It’s been a real challenge financially to make this work during the worst recession in eighty years,” Fagin says. “I’m hoping that having this piece of the musical out in the world will engender more financial support to help me continue and finish the work.”

Fagin also hopes that the show will help bring in the New Year on a positive note. “Because it is the tenth anniversary of September 11, we want to kick off a year of commemoration with a concert that celebrates the Spirit of New York,” he says. “Instead of having a concert of commemoration and solemnity, we want to be positive and celebratory.”

The orchestra will also be performing works by Euday L. Bowman and Charles Ives, and open the floor to the audience for a waltz at the end of the show. This will be the third annual concert that Fagin and his 33-piece orchestra will perform in the Winter Garden (220 Vesey St.) on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The event is free and begins at 7pm on Saturday, January 15. For more info, call 212-945-0505 or visit artsworldfinancialcenter.com. Also visit knickerbocker-orchestra.org.

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